Fri. Apr 19th, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • Apple Vision Pro is a high-end computing product that incorporates virtual reality.
  • The price of $3,499 is understandable because of its powerful computing capabilities and cutting-edge technology.
  • The fit of the device varies from person to person and comfort may be an issue during longer use.


The Apple Vision Pro is the sleekest virtual reality headset ever, but Apple has higher ambitions for it than to be lumped in with VR as we’ve known it up until now. Apple is selling the Vision Pro as a new kind of computer that you work and interact with more intimately. And, frankly, right now, it needs to be a high-end computing product to justify its $3,499 starting price.

When new devices introduce paradigm shifts in how we use them, it’s easy to get caught up in all the possibilities that come along with that. (There’s a lot here!) But for the Vision Pro, specifically, I think it’s important to start with the examination of whether it’s good at being a computer, competing with a MacBook for your attention—or if it’s better at more ancillary uses. Then seeing how everything else falls into place after that.

Apple-WWCD23-Vision-Pro-glass-230605

Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro blends digital content with your physical space. You navigate by using your eyes, hands, and voice. Browse the web in Safari, create a to-do list in Notes, chat in Messages, and seamlessly move between them with a glance.

Display Type
micro-OLED

Storage
256GB, 512GB, or 1TB

Connectivity
Wi-Fi 6E

Battery Life
2-2.5 hours

Tracking Technology
Hands and eyes

Audio
Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking

Weight
21.2–22.9oz (600–650g)

Processor
M2 and R1

RAM
16GB

Passthrough
Yes

Pros

  • Excellent displays for a convincing experience
  • Eye tracking works well
  • 3D movies are actually fun to watch
  • Powerful enough to run productivity apps
Cons

  • Device comfort is not universal, hard to know until you try it
  • Battery pack is workable but annoying
  • Certain tasks can be tricky to do with eye-tracking, such as cursor insertion with text

Vision Pro Overview: Pricing and Specs

Apple Vision Pro with its battery on a table
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

While the Vision Pro’s $3,499 price should not be its defining characteristic, it is its first hurdle to clear when considering whether to purchase. It’s a big number, but ultimately I think it’s pretty straightforward. The lowest cost model, with 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and multiple processors is simply a modern computer, albeit in a new, fanciful form factor.

Within Apple’s ecosystem, the Vision Pro lines up pretty well, spec-wise, with a 13-inch 10-core GPU M2 MacBook Air with 16GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. That computer retails for $1,399. The same configuration for the 15-inch model is $1,499.

Instead of a 13- or 15-inch display, Vision Pro includes an external OLED screen to show a wearer’s gaze (EyeSight) and two internal 4K displays—one for each eye. Plus, it has the second R1 co-processor, 12 cameras, and a host of internal and external sensors.

Add in extra cost for low yields of hard-to-manufacture components, and the rough math pencils out—at least to me. It’s a powerful computing device with cutting-edge technology. (Here’s a manufacturing video with a glimpse into that process.)

It’s not just that this cutting-edge tech is the high-end of the Vision Pro though. These are the minimum specs that Apple thinks people should be looking at their world through. When the price does eventually come down, it won’t be because a lesser version of the headset has you looking into non-4K screens. The price will come down only when Apple can deliver the same or better visual results with components that have become more commoditized and are less expensive.

To wrap up pricing, this face computer doesn’t have options for different processors, but there are multiple storage tiers. It’s $200 more to move from 256GB to 512GB and $200 more than that to get to 1TB. Why would you need the extra storage on the Vision Pro? I don’t know, exactly. I guess for people with huge photo, movie, and music libraries who want to download them locally.

The Fit of a Wearable Computer

view of the internal lens on Apple Vision Pro
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

Apple can brag about the technically impressive dual 4K screens and sensors because those deliver a specific result. It’s more subjective to tell people how the Vision Pro will fit on their heads and whether it will be comfortable for each person. That’s one reason the company makes you do a scan of your head with its mobile app during the buying process. So it can assign people specifically-sized light seals.

The fit and feel were the aspects of the device that I was most concerned about before I used the Vision Pro because it’s impossible to know until you try it on.

The Vision Pro comes with two different head straps: a Solo Knit Band and a Dual Loop Band. The Solo Knit one is the primary option that curves around the back of your head, while the Dual Loop one provides a top strap.

Solo Knit Band connector on Apple Vision Pro
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

I liked the Solo Knit Band’s soft, flexible material and its simple design, but the way it held the Vision Pro against my face was only good for about 45 minutes to an hour before I felt too much pressure on my forehead. I found the Dual Loop Band better for longer durations, but generally speaking, I haven’t wanted to use the Vision Pro for longer than its two-hour battery life for comfort reasons.

Part of that is the roughly 625-gram weight, and the other part is how my unit lays on the brow or bridge of my nose, depending on which strap is being used. This device is wildly personal, though, so my experience around fit will vary from person to person. My own comfort level has varied from day to day.

Software Interaction: Do Your Eyes Get Tired of Looking Around?

Close up side view of the lightshield on Apple Vision Pro
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

The Vision Pro doesn’t come with hand controllers. Your hands (and eyes) are the controllers. You use your eyes to look at what you want to select, and then hand gestures in the form of a subtle pinch or flick will select or scroll. You can pull windows to make them bigger or poke at the virtual keyboard too, if you want.

The key here is that you don’t have to reach out and grab everything. You just look at it and then pinch, flick, or pull. Eye tracking isn’t a new technology, but it is still a novel one. And in the context of the Vision Pro, it’s the device’s revolutionary input method, just like the iPod’s scroll wheel or the iPhone’s multi-touch.

While it did take me a few beats to re-wire my brain to tell it that my eyes were the extremities controlling the interface, it did feel natural and fun. It’s really fast to look from one screen to another and press your fingers together. As a technology enthusiast, I was admittedly giddy to use this input the first time and have it work so seamlessly.

default apps shown in visionOS

The blurred edges are not visible while wearing Vision Pro because of how our eyes work.

My eyes did feel strained after the first day. It can be exhausting to take information in with your eyes and then use them for output as well. It’s 100% neat and cool right now, but I’ll check back in with a long-term review in a month to let you know how eye-tracking has proved to be with more use.

Siri is on board to handle dictation. Look at a text field and start speaking to enter a URL, note, or other type of text. It can’t be used for every situation, including reading off a password aloud, but it’s a great option for certain text input areas.

The virtual keyboard works by looking at letters and tapping your fingers together to select letters. It’s fine for very short replies, but it’s not a magical experience like other parts of visionOS. Mostly, however, I got frustrated with the virtual keyboard’s placement. It covered the text box I was entering text into almost each time.

A physical keyboard with a virtual text window above it.

My real, physical, Magic Keyboard on a table with a virtual typing window above it inside visionOS.

I connected a Magic Keyboard, and that worked well to type on. Interestingly, if you’re typing with the keyboard in an iPad-compatible or native visionOS app, you get a pop-up of the words you’re typing above it. If you’re typing in Safari, however, you don’t. (Not yet as of this writing at least.) I mention this because I do most of my writing in Google Docs, but Google has blocked its iPad apps from being used on Vision Pro.

The operating system and interface can be both minimal and extravagant, depending on how you want to use it. If you want to place multiple windows around your room and fill your space with a lot of stuff, you can. Otherwise, visionOS is predictably sparse.

Control Center in visionOS

A view of the Control Center in visionOS

Environments are a key component of the operating system at launch, and they are the equivalent of curtains that you pull around your view to block out distractions. A twist on the Digitial Crown—the dial on the top of the headset—will activate an Environment that can be a total of 360 degrees around you or only cover up a portion of your room.

At launch, there are about a dozen Environments built in. Places like Joshua Tree, Mount Hood, and the moon, or lighting effects that make your room feel like it’s sunnier or darker than it is.

Moon Environment in visionOS

The Moon Environment in visionOS

Although the landscapes might look static, they are very much alive, with movement and sound. Talk about focused, distraction-free productivity. The immersive Environments are a fun way to escape completely. I think Mount Hood might be my favorite at launch, but it just depends on mood and use case.

The Disney+ app includes its own custom Environments, including ones related to Marvel, Star Wars, Monsters Inc., and a movie theater. Max also has its own Game of Thrones Environment, and MLB has one.

Grading Apps on a Spatial Computer

Everyone will ask, what can the Vision Pro do? Well, between dedicated apps built for Vision Pro and compatible iPad and iPhone apps, Apple says there are around one million pieces of software that can run on the hardware. There are plenty of things it can do.

The real questions are, what is the Vision Pro best at? What kinds of apps make it worth its cost? Is it a good computer for productivity apps?

It’s incredibly early, so I don’t want to pigeonhole any of these things, but here’s my initial read on what I’ve liked and what I haven’t—categorizing some notable apps and experiences.

Essential

  • Disney+
  • TV app (movies in theater mode)
  • Photos app (Spatial videos and Panoramas specifically)
  • FaceTime

Good/Fine

  • Max
  • Apple Music
  • Notes
  • Zillow Immerse
  • MLB
  • iPad compatible apps
  • Sequel (media tracking)
  • Voyager Foreflight

Poor

  • Google Docs in Safari
  • J Crew Virtual Closet
  • Lowe’s Style Studio
  • Wayfair Decorify

Using the Vision Pro to consume media, whether it’s theatrical content or personal photos and videos, is remarkable. It’s truly a “have to see it to understand it” kind of moment. That’s why the TV and Photos apps are essential. FaceTime, with 3D personas, is convenient and well done, too. You can even do screen sharing to show your view inside Vision Pro over a FaceTime call. Disney+ isn’t so different from other streaming apps like Max, other than Disney spent the time to make its app shine. The multiple Environments and 3D movies go a long way.

MLB’s Vision Pro app is similar to its VR app, which is available for the Quest headset. It’s very limited before the 2024 season starts, but it could be wildly interesting once games get underway. I’m interested to dig into it more.

Similarly, Zillow Immerse takes those 360-degree photos that are hard to view on your phone and uses them to put you inside houses. It’s a really great concept, except not all homes from the regular Zillow app show up yet.

Apple Music in visionOS

Apple Music in visionOS

The best surprise is that iPad apps work great. For example, I used the Hotels iPad app to book a stay, and it worked exactly like it does on my other iOS/iPadOS devices. On the disappointing side, J.Crew’s Virtual Closet is limited to placing a handful of outlets on a mannequin. I thought this app was the worst, but exemplifies Lowe’s and Wayfair’s apps, too. They are neat proof-of-concept ideas but aren’t fully baked yet.

There are plenty of apps available at launch. The Vision Pro is sensory overload by itself. The real test will be whether we see even more killer apps and experiences around Apple’s WWDC in June or in the fall when the company releases updated operating systems.

Productivity and Getting Work Done

top view of Apple Vision Pro with digital crown
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

Ultimately, the Vision Pro might want to be a MacBook killer, but the two play nice together for now. I opened my MacBook Air while wearing the headset and saw my Mac desktop inside Vision Pro. I could use the keyboard and trackpad on a bigger-than-life screen with all my familiar Mac software.

After several days, I could be the most productive when I connected the headset to my Mac. Using a laptop meant I had a keyboard in front of me at all times, and all my software was logged in and in working order. I could have a Google Doc open with the native visionOS Music app open to the right and the visionOS Safari open to the right. Effectively giving me multiple widows. Even if they weren’t all “Mac” windows, Universal Control meant I could use the cursor on my MacBook or in visionOS. It would have stuck out like a sore thumb if it hadn’t worked, but it was seamless.

The Vision Pro is definitely on the cusp of being a standalone computer, but it doesn’t feel quite there yet. It’s not for a lack of power, however. It’s on the cusp because there are some early rough edges. You can’t reorder apps, for one thing. This first-generation device is good enough to foreshadow where the second generation might land—but it’s not quite there yet.

When I did use Vision Pro on its own to work, I needed to use a keyboard and trackpad to be productive as a writer. I thought I might be able to get away with just a keyboard, but eye-tracking for cursor insertion was just too frustrating for me—at this point. Using a trackpad, however, was pleasant.

Could I take a Vision Pro, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad on a trip and write a review? Yes, absolutely. While I could manage Slack, Trello, and Safari logged into a content management system without a keyboard and trackpad I felt like the accessories were critical to doing those things well.

Working in Vision Pro took a couple of days to get familiar with, but it wasn’t a problem. I was at least as productive as I would have been on an iPad. After a little time, I felt like I was approaching the levels of using my Mac. There are trade-offs, of course, but I had more flexibility in window placement and sizes in Vision Pro. I had Environments to block out distractions. It’s not a given that visionOS will progress significantly, but even just modest refinements could mean an operating system people prefer to work in compared to other options.

The Wired Battery Isn’t a Big Deal

Battery connector on Apple Vision Pro
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

Apple advertises that the Vision Pro gets about two hours of battery life for general use via its wired battery pack. It also says the battery can sustain a longer, two-and-a-half hour time when watching 2D movies. I found that number to be generally right, but conservative, so you should get at least that.

The battery pack, clad in metal, needs to be tucked away somewhere, which seems like this device’s most obvious technological compromise.

There were one or two instances where I felt tethered to a battery, but in almost all cases, I forgot it was there. Fitness+ isn’t here yet, and most of Vision Pro’s use happens while sitting down, which means the battery shouldn’t be too cumbersome.

You can tuck the battery pack into your pocket, but I found the Belkin Battery Holder to be a handy way to clip it to my pants. It even comes with a clip to keep the cord wrangled.

Whether it’s an accurate comparison or not, the Vision Pro will get positioned next to Meta’s Quest 3, starting at $499. The 2023-released VR headset added video pass-through for mixed-reality experiences so, from a casual glance, the two products aren’t too far apart.

I’ve used the Quest 3 extensively over the last few months, and comparison is a bit farther apart between the two devices in practice.

Related

Meta Quest 3 Review: A VR Headset Full of Promise

A great stand-alone VR headset that’s still learning how to blend the real world with a digital one.

Quest 3 is much more of a head-mounted games console for VR than it is a computer. And while the Vision Pro has some games, mostly through Apple Arcade, they don’t offer the same level of immersion as games on Quest headsets. If the Quest 3 is the Nintendo Switch, then the Vision Pro is an iPad. They overlap in a lot of functionality, with certain strengths, but one is much more versatile than the other.

The Meta Quest 3 isn’t architected as a multi-modal computing device like the Vision Pro with free-flowing windows and a million applications. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Quest 3 evolve to be more Vision Pro-esque. For now, they’re just very different in scope and goals.

Vision Pro Availability

The Apple Vision Pro went on sale on February 2, 2024, in the U.S. and is available to order now, starting at $3,499 for 256GB of storage. Other storage options include 512GB and 1TB.

Prescription lenses cost $149, and reader lenses cost $99.

Should You Buy the Apple Vision Pro?

side view of Apple Vision Pro on a table
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

If you’ve never thought of yourself as an early adaptor—someone concerned with trying unproven technology—then there’s no reason for you to place an order for an Apple Vision Pro. It’s worth trying a demo, but most people shouldn’t buy one yet.

For those of us who are enthusiastic about new tech, the Vision Pro is hard to ignore, even if you don’t want to buy it. It’s like how space travel is deeply intriguing—a new frontier with unique, otherworldly experiences.

What I’m most intrigued to find out, in the long run, is where Apple invests its effort into its computing platforms. It now has the Mac, iPad, and Vision Pro. All three are unique, offering a viable proposition like stability, portability, or expandability. Any of these platforms could be the computers that my kids do all their work on, depending on where Apple focuses its efforts over the next decade. I truly believe that.

For the immediate future, I’m interested in how the Vision Pro fits into my computing life. Is it more like the Mac, where I station myself in front of it for extended times to field any and all types of work? Or is it more transient, like an iPad, which follows me across rooms for specific tasks like watching content, focused writing, reading books, and photo editing? It seems more of the latter, but it’s still hard to tell at the moment.

What I will say is that after my initial time with the Vision Pro, I do think it has enough computing power—and not just speed—to be a great productivity machine. It is very much a spatial device, and that offers practical benefits.

So, while I’ve seen the future, the hardware covering my eyes that I saw the future through is still very much a work in progress. I would love to completely forget I was wearing anything, to focus more on the magic inside rather than the device outside.

Apple-WWCD23-Vision-Pro-glass-230605

Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro blends digital content with your physical space. You navigate by using your eyes, hands, and voice. Browse the web in Safari, create a to-do list in Notes, chat in Messages, and seamlessly move between them with a glance.



Source link

By John P.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *